Two Retired Accountants Toured The U.S. In An RV And It Cost $209 Per Night

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Evelyn Place and I retired from our boutique accounting practice in late 2018 and began the RV journey. Really.

I was most pleased with the comment from one of Evie’s sons-in-law, who said he was proud of us – we were the first people he knew to do exactly what he said he was going to do when he retired .

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We bought a new 25-foot Class C Tiffin Wayfarer with a Mercedes Sprinter chassis and we broke it down with a few short trips from our home base in North Oxford, Massachusetts (Clara Barton’s birthplace) to New England and Upstate New York. I-90, known locally as Mass Pike, runs 50 miles east of Boston or you can choose to go west and be in Seattle after 2,989 miles.

,It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step on the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, no one knows where you’ll be swept away.“- JRR Tolkien, “The Fellowship of the Ring”

We visited 46 of the lower 48 states in four major tours and several smaller trips. We made 163 stops for a total of 516 nights. We counted 27 national parks and many more state parks and historic sites. Avi kept a blog – Peter and Evie Go RVing – If you want our travel details with lots of pictures.

Evie leans towards majestic sites of natural beauty

Don’t get me wrong, I love them, but I love oddball attractions a bit more, like this sign in Newport, Oregon.

We sold the RV in the summer of 2022. So it’s time to close the books and do the accounting.

Ownership – $61,916.74

We bought the RV for $132,532.44 (including sales tax and extras). We reduced $40,000. The total interest was $20,568.25. When we decided to sell, we were owed $80,000. We used home equity to pay it off to make the sale easier. The total payment, including the down payment, came to $153,499.50.

There were other ownership expenses, such as insurance and some costs, in our fruitless attempt to secure a private sale. All told, he came in at $10,816.05. We ended up selling to a dealer for $102,000. Netting that the cost of owning an RV for four years comes to $61,916.74.

For what it’s worth, the interest was deductible as residence interest.

Repair and Maintenance – $13,081.69

An RV is essentially a home that is regularly subject to storms and earthquakes. And it’s also a vehicle – in our case a Mercedes. We also include in this figure the cost of an oil change for our car but not other wear and tear.

I was surprised at the repair requirements for something new, but a mechanic told us that Tiffin is better than most RV brands.

There were also things like leveling blocks, sewer tubes, hoses and a sort of canvas garage. We were lucky that a relative had a huge lot where we could leave the RV when not traveling.

Gas – $11,160.84

If the purpose of your trip is sightseeing, there will be a lot of driving in addition to traveling to each stopping point. There are three ways to deal with this.

Have to have an RV with you everywhere you go. We met people who travel like this. One major disadvantage is that you have to level, connect and disconnect more often that way. Another option is a fifth wheel so you can use your tow vehicle to get around. And then an RV is used to tow a car.

Of those three common methods, we chose the fourth. Evie drove the RV and I went back to the car. It felt like a flying formation. Gas is for both RV and car. So it could be on the high side. We drove 30,000 miles on the RV and much more than that on the car. The RV got 16 mpg and the car around 25 mpg. Strangely enough, there was an era of low gas prices that was included in travel during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Meals – $0.00

Even if we weren’t traveling, we would still be eating. We probably ate more on the street, but not that much. This is one of the big benefits of RV travel. You have your house. After a couple of weeks we were referring to the RV as home. Your clothes are hanging, your stuff is in the medicine cabinet, etc. And there is a kitchen and a refrigerator, which we have supplemented with a cooler.

Sightseeing Expense – $4,250.52

This includes admission, bus travel and so on. This does not include the huge t-shirt collection I have accumulated. When it comes to visiting the United States, whether you’re most fascinated by history or nature, the best things to do are free or close to free, especially if you’re into the senior citizen racket. We’re probably losing a few hundred dollars in cash outlay in this category. As we accountants say when doing an audit, it is not important.

Campsites – $17,391.11

It includes various memberships, most notably Thousand Trails, and nightly fees, which range from $0 to $50. The one exception to that limitation was Liberty Park in Jersey City, NJ, which gave us access to PATH trains or ferries to Manhattan. That was $100 a night.

Because of our membership, Thousand Trails Camps was at no extra charge. There was way less commuting of friends and relatives than I expected. We didn’t usually stay at places with a lot of amenities.

You could probably spend a few weeks on YouTube listening to the pros and cons of thousands of trails, along with many other aspects of RV life. my favorite site is RV odd couple,

We bought a used Thousand Trails subscription, which we were able to resell at a loss while we were done. We could have saved a lot here by boondocking more, but Evie was quite opposed to that notion.

This worked out to $33.70 per night. Our plans were severely hampered by Covid-19, so we would have done better here, but for the pandemic. You’ll also note that in our case the bargain night rate is overwhelmed by the cost of ownership.

some nitpicking

We are probably missing some things that we paid for in cash, especially the sightseeing expenses. We heat with propane, and that cost is buried in gas and campsites. Sometimes we used to fill the propane tank at the gas station and sometimes at a park. As we say in financial audit, it is not physical.

Total – $107,800.90 or $208.92 per night


It is more of a case study rather than some sort of recommended model.

One of the things I enjoyed the most was the people I met and the stories I heard. Of the stories, one of the best stories was from the lady who was on the site next to us. You can almost tell by looking at him that his life was difficult. The story was more difficult.

She grew up in foster homes and struggled with dyslexia. She separated from her siblings and lost contact with them. One of his brothers did very well for himself with a military career followed by security work. He was determined to find his sister. And find him he did.

He bought her a fifth wheel, a pickup truck, and a Thousand Trails membership. Everything in it was about $30,000. She stays at a TT camp for 21 days and then boondocks at a nearby casino for seven days, depending on her special membership. I like the story mainly because I admire the brother I’ve never met. But it also shows just how affordable RV life can be.

To be honest, I was kind of shocked by the over $200 per night price that it exhausted us. Then I compare it with the Road Scholar costing so much travel, and it’s not that bad. Were it not for Covid-19, we would have volunteered at national or state parks, which gives you a free hookup.

In the end, frustration with the repair, which is the collateral damage from the pandemic, hit us. On a better note, we’re also interested in looking at some other countries.

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